It’s a blessing and a curse to have the best goaltending tandem in college hockey. Before COVID-19 notched the biggest hit of the 2019-2020 season, Massachusetts goalies Matt Murray and Filip Lindberg were first and second in GAA in the Hockey East, well-known as the most competitive conference in the NCAA. Murray only played about 150 more minutes (roughly two and a half starts) than Lindberg.
With both goalies returning next season, UMass coach Greg Carvel has a tough decision on his hands. While it’s more likely that we see the goalies continue to split time, who should Carvel lean on more, and trust in must-win scenarios?
Murray and Lindberg were nearly identical. Both started 17 games, had a 0.5 difference in their GAA, and their save percentages were within 1% of each other. Murray had three shutouts and Lindberg had two. There is certainly not a clear choice between the two based on the season’s statistics.
Let’s look at who Carvel trusted against top in-conference opponents Boston College, UMass Lowell, and Quinnipiac.
Murray played in a total of five games against those teams, starting in three games and relieving Lindberg in two. UMass went 2-3, with Murray allowing 13 goals and earning a .897 save percentage.
Lindberg started four games, however was pulled fairly early in contests against BC and UMass Lowell. UMass went 1-3 in Lindberg’s starts, with the Finnish netminder allowing seven goals and earning a .909 save percentage.
It’s worth noting that Carvel went back to Lindberg on the second night of a home-and-home against BC in early January. Lindberg put on the best performance of the Minutemen’s season, stopping 40 of 41 shots the Eagles sent his way at Conte, and Carvel trusted him to continue to hold it down the next night in Amherst. I think it’s fair to chalk up his poor performance to fatigue.
Carvel occasionally had a quick trigger last season, showing a willingness to pull his goalies at any given moment if he thought they didn’t have it that night. With Lindberg taking on a bigger role last season, and rising to the challenge, I think it’s more likely for his playing time to increase rather than decrease. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see 35 between the pipes for the first game of the 2020-2021 season.